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Ilex aquifolium
Common holly

Common holly (Ilex aquifolium) is a small, slow-growing evergreen tree or shrub, characterized by its distinct green leathery leaves and red berries. It is native to western Europe, north-western Africa and to countries north of the Mediterranean Basin; however, the species is widely cultivated outside its natural range.

The tree is often planted for its ornamental value, either as an individual or as a hedge plant, tolerating intensive pruning. The tree’s whitish wood is hard and heavy and used for smaller woodworks such as turnery, engravings and handles and is sometimes dyed and used as a substitute to ebony; it is also an excellent fuelwood. The tree’s fruit is an important food source for birds and smaller mammals during winter. Furthermore, the species is popular for Christmas decorations.

The tree grows mainly in the understorey of oak and beech forests, where it thrives in shade to semi-shade conditions. The species is adaptable to different soil conditions, but prefers well-drained, acidic soils. In its northern range, the tree grows at sea level but, in it its southern range, the tree grows in altitudes up to 2600 m. It tolerates maritime exposure as well as air pollution. 

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